Until now, there was no such "simple" technique to obtain an 'embryo-like' in the laboratory, that is a structure completely similar to that of a human embryo a few days after fertilization, on which to study how a human embryo develops, the accidents that can lead to not taking root in the uterus, causing spontaneous abortions or the failure of assisted fertilization operations, or even fatal errors that can give rise to diseases.
The result, published in the Cell Stem Cell journal, was obtained in Great Britain, by the University of Exeter in collaboration with that of Cambridge and with funding from the Medical Research Council.
Not even a month ago, a similar result had been obtained in two researches conducted in Australia and the United States, following different paths. That development in Great Britain is, say the authors of the research, has the advantage of being a more "simple" and "efficient" technique. The first step was to organize the stem cells into aggregates, in which two molecules known to influence the behavior of immature cells were subsequently introduced: after three days, in the culture dishes the cells began to organize themselves until they became very similar to a blastocyst, the spherical structure of about 200 cells that forms 5-6 days after fertilization. The same genes present in natural embryos were also active in each structure.
"This is a remarkable achievement and one that opens up exciting new possibilities for learning about the human embryo," noted the director of the University of Exeter's Institute for Living Systems, Austin Smith. For the head of the research, Ge Guo, "the new technique provides a reliable system for studying early development in humans without using embryos. This - he found - should not be seen as a move towards producing babies in the laboratory, but rather as an important research tool ". These embryos-like, in fact, allow to study the defects of embryonic development without having to use real human or animal embryos. According to the authors of the research, fertility research will benefit from the technique,with the possibility of identifying the optimal conditions to achieve maximum success in assisted fertilization interventions, and those that study the problems of pregnancy, from complications to abortions.
The next step of the research will go precisely in this direction: the goal is to bring the synthetic embryo a few days later in development, until the moment in which the natural embryos take on the characteristics to implant themselves in the uterus, and observe what happens in this crucial phase, which many embryos are unable to overcome.